Canadian Bar Association votes to urge Ottawa to expand access to assisted dying

The National Council of the Canadian Bar Association sent a powerful statement Wednesday by adopting three resolutions urging the federal government to expand access to medical assistance in dying.

The three resolutions recommend, respectively, that the government work toward legalizing advance requests for assisted dying, allow access to assisted dying for mature minors, and end the blanket exclusion of patients whose primary medical condition is a mental illness.

The vote at the CBA's Legal Conference in Ottawa comes nearly two months after Bill C-14, the Liberal government’s assisted dying legislation, passed through Parliament and received royal assent. Critics of the new law, including the CBA, have charged that it does not meet the minimum standard for access laid out in the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Carter v. Canada and unfairly excludes: individuals with chronic, but not terminal, illnesses, including dementia; individuals with mental illness who are eligible for access under the criteria laid out in Carter; and competent mature minors. 

A legal challenge to the controversial bill has already been launched. The plaintiffs in the case — B.C. resident Julia Lamb, who is 25 and lives with spinal muscular atrophy, and the BC Civil Liberties Association — say the law is unconstitutional because it is discriminatory and will inflict unwanted, excruciating pain and suffering upon Canadians who are grievously ill but whose deaths are not “reasonably foreseeable.” 

Boasting 36,000 members, the CBA is the largest professional association representing Canadian lawyers. Its National Council, which has 500 members, is the organization's governing body. 

Full-text PDFs of the CBA National Council resolutions on assisted dying are available here, here and here.

(Header photo credit: Bill Bradford/Flickr)

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